Sunday, January 19, 2014

Mengele's Moustache - Part 3

Eigerman hammered the gas..

Tommy lived in a converted farm house at the end of a long cul de sac. They pulled up to the house, tires rolling over his crushed coral driveway sounding like wrapping paper on Christmas Morning.

“Should we split up?” Otis asked.

A volley of machine gun fire ripped up the hood and blew apart a side view mirror. Both men dived under the respective safety of the dashboard and waited for the magazine to run dry. It did a few seconds later. Eigerman rolled out of the driver’s side seat and low-crawled to the back bumper. Otis followed suit. Within a few seconds, Eigerman had the trunk popped open. He fished out a shotgun and a bullhorn. He tossed Otis the shotgun and both men took aim on the front door. Eigerman bawled out instructions through the megaphone. “Come on out with your hands up!”

To be honest, both men were expecting another fusillade of shots, but what they got was the front door opening, and a voice like gurgling road tar.

Eigerman flipped on the spotlight and pinned the figure to the front threshold. “Jesus wept,” he said.

“Tommy?” said Otis. His voice was high-pitched, on the verge of breaking. That which looked like Sergeant Thomas Pettine tried to answer them, but all he got out was a wracking cough and a voluminous spray of bright red blood. More blood seeped down over his face, soaking the brim of his white Stetson cap.

Oakes lowered the bullhorn and looked across the car. “Otis,” he said, “You need to listen to me. That is not your brother, not by any stretch.” Then, he lifted the bullhorn and hollered “Show me your hands, now!”

The bloody figure paused, puzzled, and then raised his skinless right hand, looking at it as if he’d never seen it before.

“Oh shit,” Otis whispered. The bloody man with his brother’s face was holding a compact UZI submachine gun with an extended clip. He had another one in his left hand as well. He didn’t drop them, and he took another step forward.

“Stay where you are and drop those goddamn guns or I will shoot!” Eigerman, knowing even as he spoke, what was about to happen, what had to happen. Otis Pettine turned on him, leveling the shotgun at Eigerman’s head.

“Shoot my brother, you’re dead, understand?” Otis had one eye on the Captain and the other on the man wearing his brother’s face. The bloody, shambling man took another step closer, clutching more than enough firepower to turn both men and the cruiser into so much shredded waste.

Now Otis swiveled the gun back, not quite pointing it at what he thought was his brother, but aiming in that general direction. “Don’t come any closer, Tommy. We’re going to sort this out, so just step back please, okay?” Another sweep back at Eigerman.

“Lower your gun, Captain.”

“No chance.”

The bloody figure was now less than 30 feet from the cruiser, well within firing range. He opened his mouth and spit out more blood. He may have even tried to say Otis, but what came out was “Ogh-oor” like something from some second rate zombie flick. The white Stetson fell off the top of the ruined head, exposing nothing but blood and white planes of skull where there had been once a full head of hair.

“Narcisse!” Eigerman screamed, and raised his gun.

“Don’t!” Otis screamed back, and pointed his at Eigerman.

“Blurrgh!” screamed the bloody man, as he dropped to his knees, raised both guns and began firing. Bullets spanged off of the bumper and shattered the safety glass. Otis gut-shot his own brother, but Tommy Pettine kept on blasting. Amazingly, Otis then fired a shot at Eigerman, but missed. Tommy didn’t. Bullets smashed into Eigerman’s vest and tore into the meat of his thigh. A bullet struck his right bicep and the muscle exploded like a frog in a microwave. Eigerman turned, propping his ruined right arm up with his left hand and fired across the roof of the cruiser, striking Otis Pettine right above the bridge of his nose. His broad handsome features imploded like a collapsing building as the back of his head flew apart. Eigerman turned and fired three shots at his former sergeant, who was already lying on his side, that white skull dome of his looking like some great unearthed stone. He saw the lacerations, clean and straight that ran down the sides of the man’s face, meeting at a point just below his chin.

“Got you, you bastard.” He moved to unhook his radio from the holster, only to find that a bullet had struck it at some point during the firefight. No matter, he’d try the car in a few minutes and get an ambulance out here. He just wanted one minute alone with the monster, to let him know that the Good Guys won, after all.

Eigerman limped just outside of arm’s reach of the still figure and loaded another clip into his gun. Both of the submachine guns were firmly in Narcisse’s hands, fingers still on the triggers. That concerned him. He stumbled backwards, and caught himself. He took careful aim. Breathing slowly and counting off each shot, Eigerman methodically fired 15 rounds into the bloody carcass, striking the head, shoulders, elbows and wrists. It never so much as twitched.

“Got you motherfucker,” he said, panting slightly. He was out of ammo and his right arm throbbed like an infected tooth, but otherwise all was just as fine as paint, yes sir. He fell lopsidedly into a kneeling position and rolled the body on its side. “What the fuck kind of sick bastard goes around wearing other people’s faces?” The dead man’s blood felt hot and slick on Eigerman’s fingertips, but he felt it wouldn’t be right for the ambulance arriving to find this sort of … defilement.
He gripped the edges of the ruined face and tugged. It didn’t come free. Eigerman frowned, adjusted his grip and yanked harder – nothing. Something was wrong. Eigerman looked at the guns still clasped in each fist. He reached for one and pulled. They were in place just as tightly as that face. Then he saw the loops of piano wire strung around the dead man’s hands, binding him to his guns.

Eigerman was going to need a tourniquet soon, he was really losing a lot of blood. He just… needed a few minutes to sort this out. Something kept nagging him. When he spoke to Darla, she’d told him that Labowitz had come in and checked out weapons from the armory. But Labowitz stood at least 6’4”. How tall was Narcisse?

As this turned over in his mind, he heard the unmistakable rack-rack! sound of a shotgun round being chambered. He turned around and saw a silhouette framed in the emergency flashers.

“We’re going to have to do something about this insatiable bloodlust of yours, Mein Kapitän. You’ve got a real problem. Killing your own squad, tsk-tsk-tsk…” Narcisse kept the shotgun casually aimed at Eigerman as he threw a set of handcuffs over towards where he sat – hell –almost lay at this point. His arm no longer hurt, and was beginning to grow cold. “Put these on or I’ll blow your dick off with this thing.”

Eigerman did as he was told. “There’s going to be others, you know. They’re going to hunt you down and waste you.”

Narcisse looked him over, and smirked. “Sounds like job security.” He popped the trunk. “Get in.”

Eigerman did what he was told. Narcisse barely watched him climb inside. The last thing Eigerman saw were the scalps hanging from the monster’s belt. Narcisse tipped him a lascivious wink as he slammed the trunk shut. Then, all was darkness.


“Wake up, Mein Kapitän. Time to behold the fruits of your labor.”

Eigerman’s head jerked back. Smelling salts rocketed into his sinus cavities, forcing his eyelids to spring up like guillotine blades in reverse. He was in a dark room that only took him a few minutes to recognize. He was back in Eden’s Draw. He thought of the 1st trip over here – the dusty Winnebagos and station wagons parked outside with the cardboard and duct tape over the windows, and of the similar way many of the windows at the old hotel had been boarded up. How much of Shere Neck looked vacant, ever since …

The word insidious echoed through his mind, Narcisse had said something about … gas? Smoke? No, it was carbon monoxide emissions, that was the thing. Rats in the walls didn’t even know they were being gassed until their hearts slowed down and their muscles began to lock up.

“You need another snort?” said the man seated across from him. It was Narcisse, although his voice sounded different. Muffled, somehow. Beams of daylight crisscrossed the shadowy room, and when Narcisse leaned into one of the dirty sunbeams, Eigerman shrank back and cried out.

Narcisse had slipped Gibbs’s face over his own misshapen one like a Halloween mask. The result was dizzying. Narcisse’s eyes blazed out from the dead sockets like firebrands.

“It’s not a quite perfect fit, but you look like you might be about right.” Narcisse’s eyes crinkled with merriment behind the slack face. “Let me tell you where you went wrong. You made the mistake of thinking once you burned down Castle Dracula that you guys could simply ride off without any sort of blowback.”

“But sometimes the monsters get away” Eigerman finished for him.

Narcisse cocked his thumb and forefinger like a gun and pulled the imaginary trigger. “Bingo,” he said. “The thing is, we’re not the ones bent on extermination, Eigerman. That’s you guys.”

“Bullshit. You killed my men.” Eigerman fought back tears. He’d be fucked if he was going to cry in front of this ghoul. “You killed them all.”

“Technically, you killed them all, you and your goons. You killed Tommy Pettine, and his brother Otis.” Narcisse ticked off the numbers on his fingers. “You walked in and opened fire on poor Gibbs, while he was bleeding to death in that hotel room. Granted, I cut off his face and ate a few bites of him, but a man can only go so far against his true nature. I kill to eat. You…” Narcisse stood up and dumped a stack of photos on the floor between the two men. There were shots of the fire at Midian, crime scene photos of the bodies as they were dragged out and stacked against the back of an idling fire truck. There were color photos of Eigerman, Gibbs and the Pettine brothers holding up dead Nightbreed like hunting trophies, wearing big smiles with big rifles leaning casually against their shoulders. There were photos of Aaron Boone beaten nearly to death, his face a bloody, puffy unrecognizable mask of wounds, struggling to stand up with a sign propped against his chest that read SHERE NECK POLICE DEPT.

Then there were the surveillance photos of Rachel and Babette, taken just outside Eden’s Draw. Nothing more than a tired mother carrying her sleeping daughter in to a temporary place of shelter.

“So you tell me, who exactly are the goddamn monsters?”

“Christ …” Eigerman lowered his head.

“Time we finished this.” Narcisse clapped his hands once, as if summoning a butler.

A door opened and out walked Labowitz. Long deep cuts had been carved into the sides of his head. The flaps of skin hung loosely away from his face, like gills. He was naked save for a single black sock that he wore over one hand, as if was hosting a puppet show. In his other hand he held a small tray heaped with what appeared to be road kill.

“What’s wrong with him?” Eigerman asked.

“Scopolamine, mostly. Given a strong enough dosage, you can set a man on fire and he’ll just wait for you to tell him what to do next. A mutual friend of ours is quite fond of the stuff. He’s the one I’m really after, Eigerman. You boys were simply the warm up.”

“Mutual friend?”

“Dr Decker,” Narcisse said. “You haven’t seen him, have you?”

“He died,” Eigerman said.

“So did I. Twice,” Narcisse said. “It’s not as permanent for some folks as one would believe. As for Labowitz, well, a funny thing happened. I was getting ready to cut him into tiny little bits, and then I noticed, that, well look at him.”

Eigerman did. He saw what was beneath the cuts. “He’s one of you,” he said.

“It’s amazing what you’ll find out about somebody once you get past all that skin. It’s been happening a lot around here. Now, as for what to do with you, I propose a wager. Remember the ‘White Angel’?”

“Mengele – the one that got away, right?”

“Gold star for being a good listener. But he almost didn’t, that’s the bitch of it. Josef Mengele was almost caught on account of some emergency surgery he had to have when he was in his late 50’s.

“He’d grown a moustache, you see. And over the years, this may sound pretty fucked up, but he had this habit of chewing off the ends of his moustache. He did this every day, without fail, for over a decade, just chewing, and chewing, and chewing on his moustache. Who does that?
“The human digestive system isn’t built to digest hair, so when Mengele was about 55, he developed severe stomach pains. Lucky for him, he found a surgeon in Brazil that would operate without turning him over to the Mossad.
“Imagine that, the Angel of Death almost done in by a giant hairball.”

“So what?” Eigerman shifted in his seat. The photos of the dead Nightbreed were centered in a patch of sunlight on the filthy floor, and he didn’t like the way they stared at him. He could feel their gazes, even through the lens, through the bodybags and the veil of time. They stared at him ceaselessly, and hungrily.

Labowitz set the tray down over the photos, giggling at Eigerman. “Meat for the beast,” he said, in a low feral voice that Eigerman barely recognized. Then he realized what was on the tray. Not road kill after all, but the scalps that Narcisse had hung from his belt.

“No,” Eigerman whispered.

“Think of it as a modest repast, followed by a long cleansing walk,” said Narcisse. “Mengele was able to power his way through several pounds of hair and came out on the other side more or less okay. Granted, he did it over the space of a few years, and you have until I get bored, or hungry, whichever comes first. Eating a few scalps seems like a small price to pay for your life, considering the length and breadth of your sins.”

“I can’t.”

Smiling, Narcisse slipped his thumbs into a pair of gleaming metal hooks. “I was kind of hoping you’d say that.”


Narcisse paused, shrugged, and made a show of checking his watch. “Tempus Fugit, Mein Kapitän. I better see you take a goddamn bite, like, now.”

Labowitz hung back, grinning and drooling as he stared at the two men. Eigerman wondered if Narcisse was going to keep his promise and let him walk. He wondered what the Scopolamine had done to Labowitz’s brain, and what he’d become if it ever wore off. He picked up one of the scalps, Otis Pettine’s by the look of it. Cold, congealed blood slicked the bottom half. On the top, the hair felt greasy and brittle with pomade. Narcisse’s smile broadened as Eigerman raised the scalp to his mouth, took a bite, and began to chew.


Saturday, January 11, 2014

Mengele's Moustache - Part 2

(Note - This is a continuation of a story from last week. If you haven't read part one, just scroll back a little. Otherwise, enjoy ...)

The phone began to ring.

Eigerman picked it up. He managed to keep his voice steady enough. “Shere Neck Police Department, who is this?”

The voice on the other end chuckled. “That’s a shame,” it said. “I was hoping I could talk to one of the chamber maids about my turndown service.”

Eigerman took a deep breath. “Tell me your name.”

“You know who I am. Don’t you?”

“Maybe. Who’s this with me?”

“You mean my little man-mobile? Say what you will about the Viennese, but you’ve got to admit they make a mighty fine music wire. Maybe I can give you a name, maybe not. Tell you what, listen to another story of mine. This time all the way through, no interruptions, then maybe we’ll talk about your dead friend.”

Eigerman gripped the receiver tight enough to hear the plastic creak in his fist. “Maybe we could meet somewhere, and you could tell me this story face to face.”

“Are you being deliberately grotesque, Herr Kapitän? Or was that merely an unfortunate choice of words?”

“Maybe both. Tell me your story,” Pronouncing the man’s name was like praying to the Devil, so Eigerman closed his eyes as he said it. “Narcisse.”

“Very good! You may make Chief Inspector yet someday. You’re going to like this story, too. It’s the God’s honest truth. I heard it from a friend of a friend, and you know that things like that always turn out a hundred percent.”

“Sure they do,” said Eigerman.

“It happened in New Jersey, the way I heard it – right outside the Pine Barrens where that Jersey Devil keeps popping up in the supermarket tabloids. I always thought that was some sort of urban legend, but given our personal and shared experiences recently, perhaps I ought to revisit that idea, what do you say, Eigerman?”

“I’d say you’re going off on a tangent.”

“Fair enough. There was a gentleman who owned a farmhouse just outside the Barrens, on about an acre of land. He grew tomatoes or some such nonsense. He did alright for himself, except for this rodent problem. They lived in the walls, you see. Sometimes they got into the pantry and wreaked hell on the dried goods. To make matters worse, his wife was deathly afraid of the buggers.
Anyway, Farmer Barbie got an idea. He sent his wife and children up to the grandparents’ house. Then he got a hold of some stethoscope from this horse doctor who owed him a favor. The farmer started tracking and marking where he heard the most noise, from the rats. As it turned out, almost all of them lived in one wall. Even better, that wall wasn’t a load bearing number or anything. He could drill right into the goddamn thing, no problem.
So what does Farmer Barbie do? He gets a length of hose and hooks up one end to the tailpipe on his pick-up truck. He drills a hole into a section of wall, slides the hose on in, and then runs his car for a few hours. Smokes out the wall void. The thing about carbon monoxide is that it’s insidious, Eigerman. You don’t know you’re breathing in a lethal dose until it’s already too late. So, after a few hours of turning this wall into a gas chamber, Farmer Barbie starts to chop a few holes in the wall and pulls out rat after rat after rat, after rat. Half a dozen garbage bags filled to overflowing with rodent carcasses, way I heard it. There were hundreds of the fucking things in that wall, and Farmer Barbie got just about every last one of them.”

“So what did he do with them?” Eigerman just blurted out the question, he couldn’t help himself.

“That’s the bitch of it. Like I said, this was rural Jersey, and it’s perfectly legal to burn garbage there. In fact it’s fairly commonplace, and Barbie already had a pretty good sized bonfire going that day. I’m sure he told himself that burning those rats was the simplest way to get rid of them, but you and I standing here talking, we both know he had a smile on his face as he heaved the first black bag into the pyre.”

Eigerman felt a little lightheaded. “Except,” he said.

He could almost hear Narcisse’s grin as he went on. “Except, you know, don’t you? Maybe it wasn’t until the 2nd or 3rd bag, but it happened.”

“Not all the rats were dead.”

“Yahtzee. And once they found themselves roasting alive, they tore the hell through those garbage bags and hightailed it right back to the house. Burning alive and blind they may have been, that house was just as much theirs, and they knew their way back home.”

“And the house went up like a timber box,” said Eigerman.

“You’re fucking-A it did,” said Narcisse. “And good old Farmer Barbie, he died trying to put that fire out.”

A long silence followed. Finally, Eigerman said, “So, is this the part where you warn me to leave your people alone? Because I don’t see how that’s an option.”

“No,” Narcisse sighed. “We’re past warnings and we’re past bargaining. I called to allow you the opportunity to find some perspective in the shit storm that your life has become, Eigerman. You and your ilk should have never set foot in Midian, and for your sins, every last one of you are going to burn.”

“Who did you leave in here, Narcisse?”

“Fuck you and that dead nobody, Eigerman. He’s just meat for the beast, and so are you.” The line went dead.

Eigerman dropped the phone and then looked about the room. The last thing he wanted to do was check out the corpse, but he made his way to the bed anyway. He remembered Gibbs having a tattoo of a rose with the word “Mother” on his inner elbow, and that part of his arm had been chewed on down to the bone. No luck finding a match there.

Still, Eigerman was going to have to talk to Gibbs’s girlfriend and mother – no kids, no wife, thank God. But moreover he was going to have to break the news to Darla, who was more than a little fond of the handsome young trooper.

Facing away from the grim carcass, he pulled up a chair, lit a cigarette and sat down. He unhooked the radio from his belt and called the station. “Is that you, boss?” she asked, sounding a little breathless.

“Yeah, we need to talk. Are you sitting down?”

“I just did. Is it about Labowitz?”

Eigerman felt a thin layer of frost cover the skin of his heart. “What about Labowitz? Did he call you?”

“He just left here a little while ago.”

Eigerman felt the air leave his lungs like rats deserting a sinking ship, or a burning pile of garbage.

“Something wrong?”

“You saw him?”

“Only for a minute. He was in and out fairly quickly. His head was all bandaged, like a burn victim’s, but not his face. I asked him what happened and all he said was the other guy turned out a whole lot worse. Then he laughed, and to tell you the truth, it creeped me right the hell out. He barely sounded like himself.”

“Where did he go to?” asked Eigerman, knowing full well what Darla was going to say even before the words came out.

“He let himself into the armory. Oh God, boss, should I have tried to stop him?”

“No!” Eigerman didn’t mean to shout but he simply lost control, and the shuddering giggle that came next must have sounded even worse. “No. If you see him again, stay out of his way. In fact, just close down the shop. Patch all calls through to my car phone. That reminds me, is there somebody in Calgary that can run a trace after a call’s been disconnected?”

Darla took a minute before she answered. “I don’t know, but if nobody’s made any calls since the last one, you could always try star 69.”

She took a minute to explain how that worked, and then promised Eigerman that she was going to lock up and wait for his call.
He lit a cigarette before turning back to the phone. He was positive that it wouldn’t work; that the operator would only be able to trace the call back to the hotel office, or that a glut of calls over the network would have interfered somehow, or some other sort of monkey wrench that he couldn’t even fathom would have been wedged firmly into the gears of his life. When it came right down to it, he deserved no better, and he knew it.

Why were they following up on Midian, anyway? When it came right down to it, this wasn’t police work, it was attempted genocide.

“Country justice,” Eigerman muttered to himself, and that was it. What did they call themselves on the way down to Midian? He remembered, and said it out loud: “We are the Sons of Freedom.” That was it.

Eigerman dialed the number and got right through to the operator. “Yes sir,” the cheery voice informed him on the other side of the line. “We can put you through directly if you would like.”

“That’ll be fine,” said Eigerman. He smoked through the clicks and whirrs before the other line began to ring – once, twice, three times. An answering machine picked up. “You’ve reached Thomas Pettine with the Shere Neck Police Department. If this is an emergency, please hang up and dial 911.”

Eigerman lowered his head and hung up. There was nobody for him to call. He was 911. He was the last of the White Brigade.


Only, that wasn’t quite right. He made one more stop before heading over to Pettine’s place, and he argued with himself for pretty much every minute of the drive there. Tommy Pettine’s brother had been with them at Midian, and was the only civilian to come out of the raid alive. But he wasn’t exactly on the right side of the law.

In fact, Otis Pettine spent the majority of his waking hours in the cell adjacent to where they’d held Aaron Boone captive all the way up to the night of the Purge.

Otis was a drunk, mean and nasty, too. But when you had your ass backed against the wall, Otis Pettine was the kind of guy good to have around. It wasn’t just that he was good in a fight, it was that he was only ever good in a fight. It was his natural state of being. Otis couldn’t hold down a job for more than a month, pay his bills or even figure out how to apply for financial assistance, but he stood a head taller than either Eigerman or his brother Tommy, and with the possible exception of Labowitz, he knew how to handle himself better than anyone Eigerman knew.

If there was ever anyone else who could take on Narcisse, it was Otis Pettine. Except, Narcisse had gotten the drop on Otis’s brother, which meant that he might not think straight when it came right down to it.

In the end, Eigerman decided that shady back up was better than no back up, which is how he found himself at the Pine Bluff Trailer Court at just past 1a.m. on a Monday morning. Otis answered the door dressed in a pair of cut off shorts with a halo of sour mash wreathing his massive head. He swayed a little in the doorway and grinned at Eigerman.

“If it’s about the noise, tell those dickhead neighbors I already sent the bitch packing. They won’t hear from us the rest of the night. I’m going to bed anyway. Unless you want a beer or something.”

“I’m afraid I can’t. It’s about your brother. He’s in trouble.”

Otis Pettine’s boozy haze dissipated like smoke in a hurricane.


“I need you to listen to me very carefully, Otis. There’s a good chance that we’re going to see somebody tonight that looks almost exactly like your brother. He might even sound like Tommy. But if he appears hurt, or disoriented, or both, then – and I need you to be clear on this – that thing, whatever it turns out to be, it’s not your brother. Do you understand?”

“Christ,” said Otis, “I wish we had more back-up.”

“Well, we don’t. It’s just us.” Eigerman slammed on the brakes just past a 4 way intersection and let the car idle in the middle of the road. “If you can’t handle this, I swear to God just say the word and I’ll leave you on the side of the road. Is that what you want?”

Otis Pettine shook his head very slowly. “What I want,” he said, each word like a brick being shoved off the edge of a freeway over pass, “Is to make this motherfucker pay – pay for Cormack, pay for Kane, shit, even that tight-ass Joyce, none of them would have got so much as a scratch if it weren’t for these …”

“Monsters,” Eigerman finished for him.

“Yeah,” said Otis. “Let’s go get this goddamned monster.”

Eigerman hammered the gas..

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Mengele's Moustache - Part 1

(Note: The following was inspired by characters and events originally depicted in Clive Barker's Cabal. I do not own the right to any of these characters.)

Eigerman held the photo by the edges, as if to stymie anyone interested in his fingerprints. The image, grainy but clear enough, offered a telescopic close-up of a woman carrying a child wrapped in a blanket. The woman’s name was Rachel or something. The kid clutched a brown Macy’s bag with the top half of a teddy bear’s head sticking out of it. The bear’s head looked like one of those old Kilroy Was Here graffito’s. Eigerman wondered where she got the bag. There wasn’t a Macy’s within 300 miles of Shere Neck, and never had been.

When the phone rang, he let Darla answer it, even though he knew it was going to be for him. Answering phones was Darla’s job. It was just about her only job. He put the photo face down when she stuck her head in the doorway. She didn’t need to see his business.

“Labowitz, line 1,” she said.

He looked at the phone with more than a little aggravation. They’d all been getting flaky ever since the dust-up at that big boneyard, but Labowitz was supposed to be their rock. Now, two times he’d gone and called in sick, and everyone knew full well there wasn’t anything wrong with him, not in the physical sense.

But usually he had the common courtesy to call. Not today, at least not until now, almost at the end of his shift. Eigerman picked up the phone and grunted.

Darla was starting to flake out, too. Whoever this was, it wasn’t Labowitz.

“I’ve got a horror story for you, Eigerman.”

“Who is this?”

“I’ll get to that in my own good time. Did you ever hear of Josef Mengele, Herr Kapitän? They used to call him ‘The White Angel’. Just like you, Eigerman. You and your storm troopers riding in on your big white horses and your bright shiny badges. The way some folks saw it, Mengele was one of the good guys.”

Eigerman sat up and reached for his cigarettes, shook one out. “Give me a reason not to hang up this phone, come find you, and kick your ass so hard you shit shoe polish.”

“Have you seen Gibbs lately?”

That got Eigerman’s attention. “What do you know about Gibbs?”

“I know that the rest of you came out of Midian feeling 10 feet tall and bulletproof, while Gibbs left with a sort of sickness in his heart. Isn’t that right? The fires hardened the rest of you, but it somehow softened your comrade-in-arms. But that’s how things go, sometimes. Gibbs was slipping, and now he’s gone. Did you ever stop to think where he might have gone to? Or perhaps more importantly, what might have been waiting for him when he got there?”

“Maybe we could meet up somewhere and you could tell me more about it,” said Eigerman.

“You might not like that. Tell you what, say hi to your pal Labowitz. That’s a Jewish name, isn’t it? Dr Mengele had himself a couple of Jewish assistants at his lab in Auschwitz, did you know that? Helped the White Angel butcher all those children for his precious experiments, but they could hardly be blamed, being under duress and all. Although Labowitz was hardly under duress, was he?”

“I don’t suppose,” Eigerman said.

“And yet, he was practically up to his armpits in blood before that night ended – both ours and yours, did you know that Herr Kapitän? Did you know Labowitz went bezerk down there and killed 4 of yours?”


“Is it?” There was a dry, reedy chuckle on the other end of the line. “Maybe I can make him talk for you one of these days. Better yet, maybe I can cut out your pet storm trooper’s tongue and hand it to you.”

On the other end there came a muffled scream, and Eigerman accidentally crushed the cigarette he was holding between his fingers. He shouted into the phone, not an actual word but the sort of noise you might make to ward off a wild animal. This earned Eigerman another one of those low, throaty laughs, but at least the screaming stopped.

“Do I have your full attention?”

“What did you just do?”

The voice continued as if the scream never happened. “Dr Mengele’s research was supposed to have some bearing on Eugenics, but mostly he liked to torture folks. Now, here’s your horror story, Eigerman. By the time the Nazis faced what they had coming, foxy old Josef Mengele was long gone. Sure, he was sentenced to death at Nuremberg, but the ugly bit of it is that the ‘White Angel’ was sentenced in absentia.
The real horror story is that foxy Mr Mengele died of perfectly natural causes on a beach in South America at the ripe old age of 67. He died – no joke – while actually splashing in the surf on a beach in Brazil. Playing in the goddamned ocean. Sometimes Eigerman, the monsters get away after all. The hell of it is, in this particular situation that could cut either way, don’t you think?”

Eigerman found himself gripping the phone so tight that it creaked in his fist. Finally, he managed “Who are you?”

“Why I’m the Devil to you angel, Eigerman. I’m a flaming rat. I am the fire that cleanses, Mein Kapitän, and you will know my name soon enough.”

The line went dead without another word. Eigerman stared at the phone in his hand for a good, long time before replacing it in its cradle carefully, as if it were a grenade.

He pushed away from the desk on legs that felt hollow, and as fragile as porcelain rose stems. He flipped the photo back over for one last look, and felt his stomach turn a slow greasy roll. He studied their faces. He’d seen them before, sure enough.

“Get me Labowitz on the phone,” He hollered out to Darla. He hated the way he voice broke.

“Something wrong, sir?”

Eigerman felt for his cigarettes, saw them on the desk, and left them there. “Nothing,” he said. “Just, get hold of him, will you?”

“He hasn’t answered in almost an hour, sir.”


30 minutes later, Eigerman was at Labowitz’s house, pounding on the front door. He went back to the car and radioed Darla. “Try his phone again,” he said.

“I’m trying,” Darla said. Nothing.

Eigerman cut off the radio. A cursory search of the porch yielded a spare key under the ashtray next to the rocking chair. “You’re in law enforcement, Labe-o,” said Eigerman. “You ought to know better.”

He let himself in, saying “Don’t shoot” and the like to what he discovered fairly quickly was an empty house. There was an unpleasant smell to the place, but Eigerman attributed that at first to the fact that Labowitz had the unsanitary habit of cleaning deer on the back patio, and didn’t always hose off the concrete right away.

Only, something whispered to him that might not be the case today. He unsnapped his holster and rested his hand on the butt of his gun. The kitchen didn’t set his mind at ease. It looked the same as always, except for an overturned chair and a spilled bottle of Labatt’s on the linoleum floor. The bottle wasn’t shattered, just spilled. If this was a struggle, it was a quick one. Something else made the hair on Eigerman’s arms stand on end. It was a black matchbook with letters stamped in gold. They bore the words “Eden’s Draw.”

The very same place that the little girl and her mother had been photographed at.

Eigerman spun out of the driveway, almost losing control of the cruiser, running over a garbage can, veering out of the road culvert. All screeching tires and spraying gravel into the narrow unpaved road, he raced towards Eden’s Draw.


There were 4 police officers left in Shere Neck after the raid on Midian. That was 6 weeks ago. A week after that, Gibbs turned in his resignation and headed off to stay with some relatives in Calgary. Nobody heard from him since.

The thing was, nobody had bothered to look. That jab earlier about coming out of the fires hardened, that seemed true enough, but maybe they were all a little too hard. Maybe they’d gone brittle. Anyway, with Labowitz off the grid, that left just Eigerman and Pettine.

“Speaking of which…” Eigerman snatched up the radio and attempted to make contact with his (last) only other deputy. No luck – after 5 minutes on a half dozen bandwidths, he realized that all he was doing by now was making anyone with a police scanner very, very nervous.


There were 4 police officers left in Shere Neck after the raid on Midian. That was 6 weeks ago. A week after that, Gibbs turned in his resignation and headed off to stay with some relatives in Calgary. Nobody heard from him since.
The thing was, nobody had bothered to look. That jab earlier about coming out of the fires hardened, that seemed true enough, but maybe they were all a little too hard. Maybe they’d gone brittle. Anyway, with Labowitz off the grid, that left just Eigerman and Pettine.

“Speaking of which…” Eigerman snatched up the radio and attempted to make contact with his (last) only other deputy. No luck – after 5 minutes on a half dozen bandwidths, he realized that all he was doing by now was making anyone with a police scanner very, very nervous.

The Eden’s Draw Motor Lodge was a 90 minute drive from Shere Neck. Eigerman made it there in just over an hour. He got Darla back on the radio and conveyed without saying as much exactly how important it was that they get a hold of Pettine.
Puling in front of the main office, Eigerman saw 2 rows of duplex bungalows, no doubt with a privacy door between the suites. Most of the cars out front looked old and shoddy, many with meager belongings roped slipshod over rusted luggage racks, many more with cardboard and black garbage bags duct taped over the windows.

A center office housed a chain smoking elderly Russian immigrant named Bepka, who favored keeping her considerable iron grey mane piled up on top of her head in a 50’s style beehive hairdo, and wore cat eyed reading glasses with a faux pearl fob.
8 faded blue Cyrillic characters were tattooed on her prominent knuckles. She sat in a bulletproof glass booth that was nearly opaque from smoke stains. Now, Bepka lit a fresh cigarillo and studied the glossy that Eigerman had slipped through a stainless steel drawer, along with 2 twenty dollar bills.

“Ya, I seen them,” said Bepka after a moment. “They rented both rooms in building 13, paid cash."

“How many nights?” Eigerman asked. Sweat broke out on his upper lip.

Bepka slid the photo back through the tray and looked him over. “What do you want with women and children, Politsey? I don’t think there were, forgive me – are, up to anything that would warrant the attention of the law.”

“I just want to ask them a couple of questions. They aren’t in any trouble.”

“So you say,” Bepka said. She looked at the 2 twenties on her side of the bulletproof glass with a resigned sense of defeat. “I still say these two are better left alone, Härra Policeman. But, money’s money.”

Bepka rummaged through a small metal box mounted on a wall near the rear exit. After a moment, she slammed down a set of keys for 13A, and a second set for 13B.

“For what it’s worth, the woman and the little girl left either late last night or early this morning. I know because their car is gone, and hasn’t been back.”

“You see anybody else with them?”

“Ya.” She stared at him until he slid another twenty through the slot, but she pushed it back at him.

“No need, Härra Eigerman. I’ll tell you what I know. He was tall, but not as tall as you. He wore a long overcoat and a hat. A - what is the word – a cowboy hat. But he was no cowboy.”

“Did you see his face?”

“He did not have a face. I mean… I did not see his face. I am sorry, my English, there is not a …” She trailed off, and Eigerman saw that Bepka had gone the color of milk. She finally managed to say “I wouldn’t go looking for him if I were you.” Then, she slammed down the shade and turned off the light, and despite Eigerman’s knocking, Bepka never came back.

He tried calling Pettine again before screwing up the courage to approach Bungalow 13. In the air hung a foul, wild animal smell, along with the coppery scent of blood. Eigerman unhooked the holster strap, pulled out his .45 and thumbed off the safety before inserting the key into the lock.

The door gave some resistance, and the smell grew stronger. Driven by a mixture of fear and outrage, Eigerman drew back and stomped his boot against the door so hard it cracked in half and flew right through the frame.

Instantly, the figure on the bed rose up, draped in a crimson sheet with its arms stretched out forward, towards Eigerman. It moaned and thrashed, and it floated a full foot up off of the filthy mattress. It was a screaming, faceless skull, all wide wild yes and gnashing teeth. Its clasping fingers groped for the tip of Eigerman’s nose. Eigerman fired, a quick center mass double-tap followed by one to the head, tearing away chunks like bloody softballs. Acrid cordite filled the room and the smoke detector set off a piercing wail as the apparition began to swing slowly, back and forth like some nightmare piñata.

“What the Christ?” Eigerman asked to nobody. He leaned against the doorway and pivoted, clearing the room. Every door had been left open. Now he saw the silvery filaments that connected the bloody carcass to eye-bolts in the bungalow’s ceiling. Eigerman moved through both halves of the duplex without another word. His finger had about 4 lbs of pull on the 5 lb. trigger. If so much as a shadow moved the wrong way it was getting its head blown off. Meanwhile, the stench inside the place smell landed continuous square punches in his nose and solar plexus.

With his eyes darting everywhere, Eigerman flicked out his leatherman and unceremoniously cut the man loose from his moorings. He would have stood just over 6 feet tall, Caucasian, supine on the hotel mattress with his arms stretched out like a reclining Christ figure. Where his face should have been was a mask of blood and sinew. His hair had been removed too, leaving a hideous landscape of blood and gleaming white bone. His teeth jutted from his skinless lips like piano keys, and a hundred some-odd blowflies were engaged in a riotous airborne orgy, frolicking and splashing about in a surf paradise of gore.

What set Eigerman off though, wasn’t the man’s missing face, but the chunk that appeared to have been torn from his upper arm. It reminded Eigerman of a lamb shank bit down to the bone, and that was it. A geyser of noxious bile surged up his esophagus. His eyes were unable to stop processing the wretched tableau that stretched out before him – the bloody grinning skull, the chunk of meat missing from the muscular arm.

Then he saw the message, scrawled in blood on the wall behind the bed. Eigerman read it out loud in a tremulous, awe-stricken voice:

Les Yeux Sans Visage

He thought back to what B had said just before slamming her window shut: “He didn’t have a face.”

The phone began to ring.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

This made my whole day.

I got to meet one of my heroes last night.

Joe R Lansdale did a reading at The Poisoned Pen in Scottsdale. He was funny and engaging and a blast to talk with. In addition to signing my copy of The Thicket, which totally rocks so far, he was nice enough to take a copy of Infernal Machines.

Then I saw this on my Twitter feed this morning...

So, I'm just going to bask in that for a few minutes before I go off to work. Later y'all.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Archive Stuff - Anatomical Nomenclature of a 4-Horned Goat, plus That Time I had my Identity Stolen

I've seen some variations of this idea on a few Tumblr sites and liked it enough to repost ...

Anyway, now that I got that out of my system, this is something that actually happened to me a couple of months back. After the conversation with a well-meaning but somewhat slow on the uptake customer service rep from my bank, I made some notes and here's the result.

The Identity Thief Who wasn't Very Good at his Job

So, somebody got a hold of my Visa card this past June and ran amok with it.

Well, they tried to, anyway. The problem is I think I might have had about 17 dollars in the account, and so what could have been a magnificent crime-spree for this young go-getter turned into a somewhat sad, tawdry affair.

I got the e-mail from my bank and started going through what some folks have described as an absolute nightmare. For me though, it amounted to a 15 minute phone call, followed by several hours of metacognitive contemplation on my part about the man who led some alternate version of my life for about 72 hours.

Here’s some of how it went down, as depicted in the conversation I had with the nice lady who helped me sort the whole thing out.
Operator: (redacted) Bank, How may I help you?

Me: I think somebody hacked my account.

(A bunch of personal questions followed this initial exchange that I won’t get into, as they were totally fucking boring. The 1st operator puts me through to the Fraud Department, where I get asked variations of the same set of questions, which I answer while wishing I had thought to call from a landline, so I could play Angry Birds or something while I do this. Finally we come to this …)

Operator: Okay Mr Millar, it looks as if your account has indeed been compromised. We’re going to have to go down the list of recent transactions to figure out where to apply your Fraud Protection.

Me: Umm, okay.

Operator: Now it looks like you spent $11.37 at a Quik Trip in Tempe AZ at 9:34am on Thursday, is that correct?

Me: That sounds about right.

Operator: Followed by another charge for $6.77 at a Walgreen’s in … that’s also Tempe Arizona, this one was at 1:55pm on Thursday as well.

Me: I’m pretty sure that’s correct also.

Operator: It looks like the next charge was for $232.47, this one was for Safe-T Transmissions in Park City, Utah at 2:43pm. Is that correct?

Me: I’m sorry?

Operator: (Repeats the charge and then adds) Shall I apply this charge sir?

Me: Are you asking me if I somehow traveled 600 miles and got somebody to change out my transmission in less than an hour?

Operator (Totally unfazed): Shall I apply the charge, sir.

Me: No, that wasn’t me.

Operator: Okay then. I also have a charge for $32.33 for, the gold membership.

Me: What’s that?

Operator: I don’t know sir, it’s a website.

Me: I didn’t do that either.

Operator: Okay, it looks like there’s another one for, this one was for -

Me: Nope

Operator: Okay, and another charge for NoStringsAttache-

Me: Nooope.

Operator: That’s fine sir. There’s a charge on Friday for 47 dollars for the Starlite Motel in Washington Terrace.

Me: Awesome.

Operator: I’m sorry, sir?

Me: It sounds like he met somebody, maybe on one of those websites.

Operator: Oh …

Me: Yeah.

(Long pause)

Operator: Shall I apply the charge-

Me: No.

Operator: Okay, it looks like there were a couple more online purchases made (She goes on to name three more dating sites and 2 porn sites. Who pays for porn?)

Me: Okay maybe we can just speed this up by bumping off all of the online purchases.

Operator: Okay, it looks like 2 weeks ago you made a purchase at -

Me: All the online purchases from this weekend, then.

Operator: Okay. Also it looks like a donation was made for 5 dollars to the United Way just outside Ogden Utah on Saturday morning.

Me: Nope, I didn’t do that one, either.

Operator: Shall I apply the charge, sir?

Me: Nah, fuck those guys.

(Long pause)

Me: Hello?

Operator: Just dropping the charge, sir.

There was about 5 minutes more that I won’t get into, because they were boring. I cancelled the account and hung up. This sort of thing can probably be a real pain in the ass for some people and I guess I got off easy.
It kills me that the dude who stole my card donated some of the stolen money to a charity fund. I wonder if that’s just how identity thieves roll in Utah, though.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Notes from the Refractory Zone, Revisited

So, by my count it's been approximately 15 years since I actually posted anything here. Most of the entries past January or so have been guest posts of some sort. If you've been checking for actual new content, please allow me to formally apologize for my truancy.

Here's some stuff that I've been up to lately, for those of you who are stil following along. There was this article I wrote for Cracked in July ...

Along with this one that was published in August ...

I'm going to really try harder to stay on top of this blog, I figure if nothing else I'll use it as a means to keep folks aware of the different projects I have coming up, for example, this anthology that's coming out in early 2014 ...

And finally in the interest of putting some sort of actual content on this page today, here's a joke I wrote:

A horse walks into a bar.

The bartender asks: “What’ll you have?”

The horse says: “Jack Daniels. Double. No ice.”

The bartender: “I don’t get it.”

The horse: “Get what?”

They size each other up. A long, uncomfortable silence ensues.

Finally the bartender shrugs and wanders off to get the drink. The horse swivels in his stool and surveys the place. It’s a smoke-filled wreck of a dive, the kind of place where trouble comes to you even if you’re doing you’re damndest to just mind your own business. The bartender lays a tumbler of bourbon onto a napkin. The horse raises the glass to his nose and sniffs, nods approvingly and slaps a 5 dollar bill on to the bar.

From behind a voice says, “It’s you.”

The horse turns around. Sure enough, trouble has found him. In this case trouble is a tall 30-ish redhead. Tattooed, muscular shoulders and improbably high tits. Fake no doubt - the tits, not the tattoos. She must have turned her fair share of heads back in the day but a lifetime of bad choices has a way of aging some folks prematurely, and this particular filly looks as if she’s been rode hard and hung up wet just a few times too many. It’s the corners of her mouth, mostly. The way they turn down as if a pair of invisible filaments are tugging on them have a way of making her look more than a little unsympathetic.

She raises her eyebrows at him. The horse realizes she’s asked him a question.

The horse says: “I’m sorry?”

She says: “I’m sorry, too.” A pair of tears slide down her leathery cheeks, dragging a couple of ounces of black mascara with them as they join together at a point just below her chin. She wipes them away absentmindedly and pulls out a yellow manilla envelope.

She leans in close, and her full red lips brush the horse's ear. She whispers “Make it look like an accident, okay?”

She slaps the envelope down on the bar right next to his drink and then turns and storms out of the bar. A second later, the sound of tires screeching outside undercuts the tinny jukebox music as a pair of bikers push through the saloon style doors.

The horse tucks the envelope away as the bikers sit down about 3 stools down. He stands up and finishes his drink and walks outside. He is trying not to tremble. Later on he’ll open it up and find $5,000 has been stuffed inside. He has no idea who the woman is, and he doesn’t care, either. As far as the horse is concerned, it’s time to mosey on to the next town.

Some time later, an undercover cop walks into the bar. He orders a drink, checks his watch, and curses under his breath. He finishes his drink and checks his watch again.

He says to the bartender: “Another round.”

The bartender nods, draws him a beer and asks: “So why the long face?”

A Guest Post from S.M. Boyce - Book Nerds, Don't Miss Out on This, Noveltunity Book Club and Giveaway

NoveltunityI have to talk to you about Noveltunity. I don't usually get excited about websites, but this one looks fantastic. It's all about putting power in the hands of the readers. Noveltunity is going to make it so much more fun to be in a book club.

To keep things interesting, he and I put together a really fun giveaway. That's at the bottom, but I want you to learn more about what Noveltunity is going to do for you. It's really cool. I've spoken multiple times with Rick Karlsruher, President of Noveltunity®, and the info he's given me on his new website is going to make life easier for both readers and writers on a global scale.


About Noveltunity

Noveltunity® will be a worldwide ebook/audiobook club that will feature and promote new and undiscovered writers. Members will also have classes and meetings with fellow writers and readers from around the world.


If you are a reader, you get the chance to create the next Stephanie Meyer, JK Rowling or John Grisham. You’ll also be able to meet the writers in meetings as well create friendship with other readers from around the world. In the past two months people from thirty countries have expressed interest in joining.

Seriously. How FUN is that? You get to meet with the chosen authors every month. Just talk to them, like they're normal or something.

So here's the skinny: Noveltunity® launched a crowdfunding campaign on on September 9.

As part of the crowd funding campaign, there are lots of ways to donate. However, one sticks out most to me: the $50 contribution. The bonuses that come with this are ridiculously top-notich. Almost every writer in our group will use this.

You will receive:
  • A state-of-the-art multi-media ebook conversion from eBooks In Motion. This program will allow audio, video and other media to be included in your work. This could separate your book from others and would normally cost over $200.
  • 2 one-year memberships for Noveltunity®. Each will include 36 ebooks and 12 of which will be made into audio books.
  • Audiobooks - included. Yes - they will make audiobooks for you. Sorry. I just wanted to make sure that was pointed out.
When you do the $50 option, you get a "one for a friend" sort of deal, which I love. I like the idea of donating one of the memberships to a public library, but you're welcome to give it to another author friend. If you do donate it to a library, it helps others and puts the club’s book selections on their shelves. This will help dozens of authors every year.

Just for following my blog, Rick has offered our group the ability to use his meeting rooms for classes when we need them. His mission is to help writers succeed. We share that goal.

Let’s all participate! Boyce's Books can put Noveltunity® on the map, and I want you to share in this with me. I'm excited to be with Noveltunity from the beginning, and I want you to be there with me.

So how about it? Are you in?

[button link="" size="medium" target="_blank" color="blue"]Grab Your Spot @ Noveltunity![/button]

If you have any questions, email Rick directly (Rick [at] noveltunity [dot] com) or me.


The Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway